Books: the dying frontier. Endless. Silent. Waiting. This is a new Adventures in Poor Taste reoccurring review column hellbent on reminding everyone books can be pop culture too.

Its mission: books fight to the death to see which one is worth reading. To seek out and contact words that form sentences that form paragraphs that form chapters that form novels. To explore. To travel the vast published books, and make the search cut in half, where no man has gone before. A dueling book review.

Two monster/virus books hit book stands this year, both in time for Halloween, because we all know how badly we need that Hallow’s Eve zombie and vampire virus read! Two books enter, one book ends up shredded.

Ref: FIGHT!


Do not attempt at home. No books were harmed in the making of…this clichéd sentence.


Challenger 1:
Zone One
by Colson Whitehead
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group



Author Whitehead wondering if he’s pulling off the halo look.

A pretty terrible experience. No, not a zombie outbreak; this book.

There are flashes of interesting in this book, but overall you just want to skip ahead. The book utilizes stream of consciousness to express the protagonist’s detachment from reality, which is interesting and a probable way of someone in a zombie apocalypse coping… but a horrible way to tell a story. Told in first person, the protagonist may start to give some much needed back story, but his story will wander and eventually the protagonist will actually lose track of the point of his story, and ask his buddies “hey why was I talking?” Great question for the lead character to be asking when the reader doesn’t know why they’re even reading it themselves. This one takes an instant blow to the chin for being extremely frustrating and annoying.

Crowd: Gasps. Concerned murmuring.


Zombie punch! +40 knuckle strength.

Taking place in Manhattan in the not-so-distant future, Whitehead does take the time to discuss zombie behavior, which follows in George Romero’s steps in using zombies as social commentary. In Zone One, zombies linger in their cubicles waiting for the copier to make the printouts that will never come, stand in iParty staring at guerrilla costumes wishing they could afford what they are wearing, or laze in reclining chairs endlessly pressing the power button on the remote control. It’s social commentary at it’s finest, but really could be reduced to short story.

Commentator: Zone One gets a right hook in, but not cleanly!

A big twist at the end deals with the protagonist’s race, and I found this twist utterly pointless. I suppose the author is trying to say, “when all humans are at odds with an enemy that is not human, they forget about race and racism disappears,” but this point isn’t very clear.

See Ref embarrassed for Challenger, shakes head.

And that’s ultimately the problem. The entire book isn’t very clear. It reads like the ruminations of an old woman trying to figure out what it all means: God; meaning, was that crab cake I ate in 76′ bad? The reader can’t get a lead on why we should care about anyone or why we should care about any of it. For a book trying to do something different with zombies and move away from violence and action it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.

The book feels like it never got beyond the short story phase, but to get it on the rack the author stuffed it with 120 pages of filler. A frustrating experience.


Challenger 2:
The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy #3)
by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers



Co-author Guillermo Del Toro noticing how invalid you are.

True, this book enters the ring with a boxing glove filled with cement due to two books coming before it, but the equalizer is the fact that this book has an ending. The most difficult thing a trilogy can accomplish.

Ref: Cement glove? I will allow it.

This series does monsters right by sticking them in a coherent and plausible world. The vampires are realistic, made plausible because of the history the previous books built up, and the occasional explanation of the science behind vampirism. For instance, the protagonist is a virus specialist and at one point cracks open a vampire and discovers vampires drink not by sucking but through physics. This all makes your imagination, however smug and intolerant to monsters, believe these creatures could exist. Which of course makes it much more scary.

Ref: Concept art from the comic adaptation? I will allow it.


Concept art showing how the stinger works from The Strain comic book released December 13th. Because without arrows it’d look like a snake pooping a person. Ah, sarcasm.

Taking place in America in the near future, vampires have taken over the world, the master plan of The Master, the oldest living vampire who dates back to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Super villain? Check.

Dr. Eph Goodweather is part of a team that is the only remaining threat to The Master, with only an ancient book to guide them. The team has slowly developed over the three books, but if character development is what you’re after, look elsewhere.

Ragtag group of heroes? Check.

The book reads like a bombastic action flick and instead of quiet moments between romancing characters, has quiet moments of inspection of the monsters. Twilight, drop dead and die.


Concept art for The Strain comic book. Also appetite represent.

As a satisfying conclusion to the strain, I have to say the book delivers. Answers are there, and it even throws in some surprises. The vampires are realistic, the plot strong, and the characters, while for the most part thinly realized, are realistic enough. Simply put, this is reading that keeps you on the edge of your seat and begging for more.

The book does take a left turn in its scope from the previous books moving away from the science of vampirism and into a strictly biblical realm. Personally I liked this turn, as it makes the entire series more mythological.


Whatever you do, do NOT make a burping noise while viewing this image.

The only problem I found with this book—and really the series as a whole—is that the books could have been fleshed out further. This is probably due to the authors’ goal of making it exciting and action-packed, cutting back on the humans and giving the reader a ton of action set pieces. You might follow a character minute by minute for half a day, but then the book cuts to a full week later. This keeps you on your toes, but also begs the reader to fill in details that could have made the book more enjoyable. I felt a few times there were missed opportunities the book could have taken. But then again, this could be seen as the authors giving the reader the opportunity to let their imagination run wild.

Zone One is looking lethargic, the bulbous waxing of a character can only land so many punches. The social commentary scores points, but this one is down for the count.

Ref: Night Eternal wins!


Admittedly an unfair fight due to monster movie master Guillermo del Toro at the helm of Night Eternal.